“Hello? Hello Can you hear me? Yes. Where are you? I’m outside looking out of the window. Where? – Here, near here #RepeatorTransmission” (Repeator, 2017). Accompanied by an image, a figure against a background of concrete and sky, viewed through a window, but who is the spectator?
There was something ephemeral about this tweet, words on the wind, there and then not there. I wanted to know who was ‘there’, and where was ‘there’, who was listening, who was looking, what were they looking at. It made me think about conversation broken into fragments that merge with every other sound and create the cacophony of a city speaking.
This tweet by @Repeator123 forms part of an ongoing research and experimental residency between Cathy Wade and Laurence Price of Repeator and Ryan Hughes of Office for Art Design & Technology. In a world where we are surrounded by layers of communication, where we take for granted our ability to interact both physically and virtually and where we perform and interact daily across social media. Repeator’s four day event, ‘Repeator:Transmission, Launch, Broadcast and Live Event’ at Coventry Artspace’s venue City Arcadia, looks at biotic, symbiotic and inorganic communication, exploring how this manifests and projects; a collage and layering of different technology, interactivity, performance and experimental risk taking.
Coventry has been the nearest city to me throughout my life. Always known as ‘the concrete city’ it has always been best known for its football club, extreme poverty and its infamous ring road. It is a city that is ascending through and out of its concrete shackles. Repeator:Transmission are experiencing this pivotal time and are acknowledging, responding and disseminating it. Embracing the many layers that make up a city, acknowledging the collage of old and new, the physical, the digital, the analogue, the sensory but not only that.
On arriving at the event, I walked through the once thriving, now uncared for shopping precinct towards the double fronted and unassuming former retail unit. I am first greeted by a projection on the left hand window, in shadow form, all detail abstracted I make out the shapes of people within, a shadow performance intrinsically layered with projected moving images. Pushing open the door I sense an anomaly in the ground beneath me which causes me to pause and look down, as my feet tread on carefully placed salt, a slight crunch and I am over the threshold.
To my left a bowl sits isolated across the dusty concrete floor, it is unassuming yet pulls me towards it. Being held within it is more salt, as if it is a gift, a symbolic offering of friendship, a moment to purify before moving through the threshold. A linear visual scan brings me to a small low table, a structure synonymous with sharing, a place for people to connect with one another. Directly ahead of me stands an archway which would be imposing if it weren’t for its transparency, this structure creates a flow through the room from one threshold to another. I was aware of movement on the wall to my right, and see a fish-eye view of the city projected onto the wall, taking me on a journey up and down steps, through another shopping area, glimpses of glass and steel, people going about their daily lives. I see weather, people, structures, nature. The space leads to a two-part structure, it is both black and white, folds within it create hidden layers, side by side as if the concrete roads and paths covered in tarmac have been rotated 90 degrees.
Once the audience had all stepped through the threshold, the performance began. As spectators we were voyeurs, eavesdropping as Cathy and Laurence became the city and the city dweller, passing information between each other via hand-held walkie talkies. We cannot see Cathy we can only hear her and as the information is shared between them and therefore to us, we watch visual information projected on the wall. Combine this with the instinctive reactionary sound algorithm provided by Samuel Rodgers and the city becomes focused into that one time and place yet the audience are taken on a journey outside of the space and time around the city.
City Somatic:Un-orientating Coventry’ on the Saturday took performance further, no longer spectators but participants in a drift, a walk with no agenda other than to experience the life of the city whilst information was shared between the city and its participants. Discovering and really looking at what was around me, starting above the city at the top of the City Arcade car park which is empty of cars, the crumbling concrete, its layers exposed is in complete contrast to the new steel and glass architecture that has come along to usurp it in other parts of the city. Continuing the walk down into the markets and the shopping centres, connected by pathways, stairways and the underpass.The mural within one of the shopping centres where many of us took trace rubbings, the steel and glass of the roof of a shopping arcade back lit by a particularly blue sky that day. The sound of vehicles, the roar of a big bore exhaust, the hum of stationary traffic, the rustle of a discarded crisp packet blown by the wind. A soundtrack of human industry, conversations between stallholder and customer, the footsteps of many as they walk around and through, some fast and purposeful, others slow and meandering. Sweets being tipped onto metal scales, the squeal of the wheels of a stock trolley. Feeling the change of temperature on my skin as I walk from one threshold into another reminding me that outside feels different to inside.
All this information was transmitted, echoed and repeated with Repeator via paper, photographs, the internet; written/recorded words, still and moving images. Received, analysed and discussed with peers on the final day of the event, Temporal Frequences, broadcast live from within City Arcadia to a public audience was the end of this four day event but not the end of the project. The project continues not only through Repeator’s twitter feed but continued research and analysis and I am excited to see what comes next.